Doggy tale The Art of Racing In The Rain 'groomed to reduce grown men and women to shuddering sobs'
Damon Smith reaches for the tissues as a dog (voiced by Kevin Costner) feels the need for speed beside his owner (Milo Ventimiglia) in The Art of Racing in The Rain
AN IMPECCABLY groomed golden retriever with a pithy Kevin Costner internal monologue keeps a tight leash on his owner's emotions in The Art Of Racing In The Rain.
Plucked from the same litter as Marley & Me, A Dog's Purpose and A Dog's Journey, director Simon Curtis's emotionally manipulative drama knows instinctively how to wag the tail of animals lovers with canine cuteness (puppies frolicking, a comical stand-off with a stuffed zebra) and calamity (terminal illness, child custody, a late-night vet's appointment).
At these key moments, the action frequently shifts to the dutiful pet's point of view, accompanied by a few choice words of wisdom delivered in Costner's soothing rasp.
Curtis serves notice on our tear ducts in the opening scene as the ageing four-legged protagonist lies forlornly in a puddle of his own making, apparently two barks shy of doggy heaven, while composers Volker Bertelmann and Dustin O'Halloran pluck a few strings of their own.
Mark Bomback's script, adapted from the best-selling novel by Garth Stein, has been groomed to reduce grown men and women to shuddering sobs by forcibly reminding us of the fragility of life.
Our saltwater downpours begin well before the first rain clouds burst on screen.
Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia) is one of the best drivers at a racing academy managed by Don Kitch (Gary Cole).
He dreams of putting pedal to the metal for Ferrari so when Denny chooses a golden retriever puppy as a constant companion, it's no surprise that he christens the dog in honour of the motor racing team's founder.
Enzo (voiced by Costner) shares his owner's love of petrol fumes and pit stops.
The four-legged protector watches proudly as Denny accelerates to glory on the track, supported by best friends Mike (Ian Lake) and Tony (Andres Joseph), who play in "Seattle's third most popular Soundgarden tribute band".
During a visit to the supermarket, Denny falls under the spell of Eve (Amanda Seyfried).
"You don't mind if I love him too?" she whispers to Enzo during a whirlwind courtship.
"As if I had a say in the matter," retorts the golden retriever, who witnesses the birth of Denny's cherubic daughter Zoe (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) and an acrimonious legal tussle with Eve's wealthy parents (Martin Donovan, Kathy Baker).
The Art Of Racing In The Rain zooms handsomely between Denny's various crises without digging too deeply into the pain beneath the film's glossy coat.
Ventimiglia and Seyfried are an attractive pairing and Costner spits out one-liners with gravelly-voiced relish.
The plot scampers down a well-trodden path with few surprises, culminating in a flashback montage designed to wring out any final droplets that have somehow withstood the onslaught.
Released: August 9
THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN (PG, 109 mins) Drama/Romance. Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Martin Donovan, Kathy Baker, Gary Cole, Ian Lake, Andres Joseph and the voice of Kevin Costner. Director: Simon Curtis.